How to Build Community from Scratch

Since I began to truly recognize the value of community marketing and associated projects, the demand on my time as “community catalyst” — Charlie Gilkey’s term — has managed to completely overrun my schedule. No, you’re not crazy; that specific set of skills isn’t yet represented on Ideaschema’s website, primarily because I was overbooked before I managed to get it written up. Whoops!

One gap has eluded my understanding until very recently, though, and it’s this: How can I help someone who doesn’t already have a community to work with?

What if they’re great at what they do, they’re excellent at communicating with an audience… but they just don’t have an audience yet? Any leverage I have personally requires existing community assets. Where could I send these people?

A few weeks ago, I was offered a gig with Squidoo co-managing its magazines project. Suddenly I had a solution to that problem.

Squidoo Magazines

If you didn’t know already, Squidoo allows users to create pages (called lenses) on whatever subject they desire. The site then leverages advertising across this user-generated content to allow those users to make money from their pages — or donate part or all of that money to charity.

In October of last year Squidoo had 1.5 million hand-built lenses. On their 5-year anniversary, they gave an (additional!) $275,000 to charity. Their site is ranked #73 among all websites in the US. Squidoo gets more traffic than Digg, NBC or Hulu. And it’s recently begun to launch a series of online magazines, which is where I get involved.

Seth posted on his blog today about the Squidoo Magazines project. We’re publishing original articles from remarkable contributors, highlighting great existing content and connecting passionate people via social media.

My title du jour is Talent Scout, and I’m a matchmaker: I look at the magazines we’re launching, and find contributors who will be a great fit for that prospective audience. I seek out talented content creators who need a platform, or who want to expand their current audience with a new one. And then I give them that platform.

If you didn’t know before how to build community around your personal brand, you do now. I just told you how. It’s not instantaneous, it takes personality and determination, but it works.

If you want to promote your own work or act as content editor, fill out this form. We’ll use the resulting list to seek contributors when we need new content for new magazines, and you’ll get regular updates so that you can let us know you’re interested when the perfect request comes up.

Yes, it will be tons of fun. Want to join us?

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